Feasting on Thanksgiving Art Auction Highlights From 2023
Hungry for some good news? 2023 has been a stellar year for Thanksgiving-themed fine art at auction. This traditional November holiday has inspired some of America’s most beloved artists to create nostalgic and loving images celebrating family and food. Here are some recent and impressive Thanksgiving art auction highlights that caught the eye of the Auction Daily team. All prices noted include the auction house’s buyer’s premium.
Grandma Moses Painting at Doyle
On November 8, 2023, Doyle of New York, NY sold lot #112, Grandma Moses’ (Anna Mary Robertson, American, 1860 – 1961) Over the River to Grandma’s House, on Thanksgiven [sic], from 1943. Estimated at USD 50,000 to $80,000, it realized $124,450. This oil and glitter or sugar on Masonite painting measured 20.5 inches by 30 inches. It was signed ‘Moses (ll)’, dated March 4, 1943, numbered 345, and inscribed as titled on a label on the reverse. The work pictured a tranquil snowy country scene featuring houses, barns, a horse-drawn sled, pine trees, and a covered bridge. According to Doyle, this painting was acquired from Grandma Moses by Elizabeth Clark on behalf of Bess Lambert in 1943, and has descended in the family of Charles and Bess Lambert.
Folk artist Grandma Moses was proof that success can come at any age. Although she loved and appreciated art since childhood, she began her “painting career” when she was 78. My Life’s History, her autobiography, was published in 1952. Her profile and work were featured on the cover of Time magazine soon after in 1953. Sugaring Off, her most expensive piece, was auctioned by Christie’s New York in 2006 and made over $1.2 million.
J. C. Leyendecker Painting at Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers
On October 14, 2023, Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers of Cranston, RI sold lot #54, J. C. Leyendecker’s (German American, 1874 – 1951) Peeling Apples Study. Estimated at $800 to $1,200, it traded hands at $13,750. This oil on canvas mounted on board work was unsigned. It pictured an elderly lady in a traditional outfit preparing apples for Thanksgiving. This hidden jewel was painted for the 1925 Thanksgiving edition of The Saturday Evening Post cover. As such, the layout grid for publication placement was visible. This piece was from the estate of artist and illustration art collector Carl J. Pugliese (American, 1916 – 1982).Commercial artist Joseph Christian Leyendecker created many of The Saturday Evening Post‘s iconic magazine covers throughout the prewar period. Over time, he illustrated 322 covers for the publication, including its legacy New Year’s Baby, Santa Claus, Mother’s Day Flowers, and 4th of July Fireworks images. He also created artwork for popular consumer brands including Gillette razors, Ivory soap, and Kellogg’s cereals. In May 2021, Heritage Auctions of Dallas sold his Beat Up Boy Football Hero Saturday Evening Post cover from November 21, 1914, for $4.1 million.
Disney Thanksgiving Magazine Cover at Clark’s Auction Company
On January 8, 2023, Clark’s Auction Company of Scotts Valley, CA, sold lot #131, original Disney cover art for Western Family Magazine by artist Hank Porter (American, 1900 – 1951). Estimated at $3,000 to $5,000, it made $8,375. The painting featured Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and two mouse kids saying grace around a square table laden with traditional Thanksgiving food. The family was dressed in Pilgrim-themed outfits. One of the kids was eyeing the feast in a most charming way. This rarity was signed “W. D. P. Marked 601331 Nov 1 1945.” The label on its reverse noted “The Art Directors Club of Los Angeles First Annual Exhibition of Advertising and Editorial Art, Submitted By… Name: Western Family Publishing Company, Address: 3224 Beverly Blvd No. 425.”
Hank Porter began his career at Disney in 1936 in the animation department. He would soon find his home in the organization as a staff artist in the Publicity Art Department. His work there included illustrating some of Disney’s Sunday comic strips as well as creating emblems and logos for governmental, nonprofit, and other agencies involved in the World War II fighting effort. Porter was one of a handful of employees at Disney allowed to reproduce Walt Disney’s signature. It is very likely that he designed the iconic “looping D” that defines Mr. Disney’s autograph to this day.
Streeter Bail Painting at Abell Auctions
On January 26, 2023, Abell Auctions of Los Angeles, CA sold lot #369, Streeter Blair’s (American, 1888 – 1966) Early Start for Aunt Mary’s Thanksgiving. Estimated at $1,000 to $1,500, it made $4,063. This oil on canvas painting from 1952 was signed, titled, and dated on its lower left. It depicted a snowy scene at twilight with numerous dark buildings, a man, a woman, a rooster, and two girls sitting in a horse-drawn sled.Like Grandma Moses, Streeter Blair came to painting professionally at a later age– 60 years old. His earlier careers included teaching, selling clothing, editing, advertising, and dealing in antiques. He was entirely self-taught and painted in the primitive style. He and his work were featured in an article in Time Magazine in March, 1969. Actor Vincent Price (American 1911 – 1993) was a strong supporter and patron of the artist.
19th-Century Thanksgiving Poster at Hilliard & Co.
On August 5, 2023, Hilliard & Co. of Madison, VA sold lot #126, a 19th-century hunt club poster announcing a Thanksgiving day riding club event. Estimated at $300 to $500, it realized a whopping $3,250. This sepia watercolor or ink on brown paper example was housed in a contemporary frame.
Clearly one of a kind, this handsome poster was illustrated with a group of well-attired people on horses and a list of names of club members on a scroll below the drawing. The illustrator was anonymous. The copy on the poster stated, “All Friends are Invited to Turn Out with the Riding Club Thanksgiving Day, meet at Mr. Rowells at 2 1/2 P. M. Pres., R. E. Rowell. V. Pres., Dr. Talbott. Capt. Albert P. Eastman. Adjt. Lynn Abbot. Qrmr. Will R. Eastman. Bugler, Gregor Noetzel. Color Bearer, Miss Kathie Nourse.”
Looking for more seasonal auction highlights? Check out Auction Daily’s coverage of five thrilling Halloween auction highlights from 2023.